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The Body's Specific Skin Needs

By: Joan Tomeu
Posted: June 28, 2011, from the July 2011 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
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Although many of the same skin conditions that appear commonly on the face also plague the body, people often simply cover them up rather than seeking treatment. Some are embarrassed at the prospect of having body parts treated by a skin care professional, and others are unaware that body-specific products and treatments are even available. These types of body-targeted products are widely available for the treatment of acne, hyperpigmentation, keratosis pilaris and atopic dermatitis (eczema).

Body acne. This is incredibly common, particularly in teenagers and in more humid climates. The hyperkeratinized skin on the body creates the ideal environment for Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) bacteria to proliferate. Increasing exfoliation, reducing inflammation and keeping the area well-cleansed and hydrated are key to clearing acne breakouts on the body. Salicylic acid and other anti-inflammatory and keratolytic topical ingredients help to reduce cell impaction and decrease inflammation within the follicle, while controlling the proliferation of acne-causing bacteria.

Hyperpigmentation. This commonly affects the hands, arms and chest. Subject to daily UV exposure, these areas are often neglected when it comes to sunscreen use. Melasma is typically discussed as a facial challenge, but can also appear on the forearms, while post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation will develop anywhere surface trauma has taken place, not just on the face. Chemical peels that combine trichloroacetic acid (TCA), and alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) can dramatically increase results. Because of the thickness of body skin, higher percentages of active ingredients can be employed for these treatments. Home-use products that contain hydroquinone, undecylenoyl phenylalanine, and phytic, kojic and azelaic acids are also recommended for daily use. The combination of professionally applied treatments with home-use products is the best way to achieve even pigmentation.

Keratosis pilaris. A common complaint found on the tops of the thighs, backs of the arms and buttocks, keratosis pilaris often appears in the winter and is characterized by small, roughly textured bumps. It is caused by cellular impaction around the hair follicle, which forms a plug. Keratosis pilaris is best treated with moisturizing lotions containing exfoliating agents and humectants. Again, because the skin is thicker and less prone to inflammation, higher percentages of acids, such as lactic acid, can be used to reduce the predominant hyperkeratinization.

Atopic dermatitis (eczema). Typically affecting the backs of the knees, insides of the elbows and the face, atopic dermatitis can occur anywhere on the body. Flareups are often brought on by stress or topical irritants, such as shampoo or soaps. Dry, scaly, red, itchy patches that can crack and weep are common signs of eczema. It is often associated with allergies, so finding the trigger greatly reduces onset. Anti-inflammatory topicals that provide a large amount of hydration and occlusion are beneficial. Physician referral may be necessary in extreme cases, because prescription medications may be needed. In atopic dermatitis that is not open and weeping, AHAs, beta hydroxy acids (BHA) and other ingredients that help to increase hydration and encourage cellular turnover can be added to a client’s regimen.

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